5 Things You Didn't Know About The Hollywood Sign

On July 13, 1923, a 50-foot sign that spelled out the word "Hollywoodland" was dedicated in the Hollywood Hills. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about this sign that ended up as a welcome to the movie capital of the world...

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The Sign Was Created As A Real-Estate Advertisement The Hollywood sign started out as an advertisement for a new real estate development partly financed by the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harry Chandler.  In order to promote the project, Chandler and his partners put up $21,000 (over $250,000 in today’s money) for 45-foot-high white block letters that were anchored to telephone poles and illuminated by 4,000 light bulbs. At night the billboard flashed in four stages: “Holly,” then “Wood,” then “Land” and then the entire word, “Hollywoodland.”

A Suicide Highlighted How Hard It Was to Reach Stardom Peg Entwistle climbed up on the “H” in the fall of 1932 and jumped. She was distraught that her part in the film Thirteen Women had been cut out, and it was her first and only movie. Ironically, a letter had been mailed to her just before her death offering her the lead role in a play about a young woman who commits suicide. Since her suicide, rumors have floated around that the ghost of a woman dressed in clothing from the 1930s can be seen appearing near the Hollywood sign and then vanishing.  

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Four Letters On The Sign Were Eventually Removed Regular maintenance on the sign stopped when the Hollywoodland real-estate development went under due to the Great Depression. The “H” even toppled over, so that it briefly read “Ollywoodland.” After ownership of the sign passed to the city in the mid-1940s, the L.A. Recreation and Parks Commission apparently wanted it razed. But the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in, and in 1949 it removed the last four letters and restored the rest.

The Sign Was Restored With the Help of Donations Despite the 1949 restoration, the Hollywood sign eventually began to deteriorate once again. The third “O,” for example, tumbled down the side of Mount Lee, and arsonists set fire to the bottom of the second “L.” In 1978, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner held a gala at his mansion, where he and eight other donors, including rock musician Alice Cooper, pledged nearly $28,000 each to fund a replacement. After a three-month period without a sign, construction finished up later that year. The sign looked the same, but structural improvements were added, and it is maintained with fresh paint from time to time.

The Sign Was Hit By A Car You might not think that a sign perched on the side of a steep hill would be in danger of being hit by a car. But one night, Albert Kothe had a little too much too drink. He drove his 1928 Ford station wagon right off the cliff just above the sign. The car rolled down the hill, smashing into the “H.” Luckily, Albert was OK, but both the Ford and the “H” were destroyed.